Science, Sex, and Fragrance


We thank the program committee which, in my husband’s opinion, paid us the ultimate compliment by referring to us only as “Masters and, Johnson” in that familiar manner of referring to someone who has become a household word. For some reason, we find that to be rather reassuring and comfortable.

Our title evolved as the result of a conversation I had about a year ago during a large dinner party of people from the cosmetic industry. This discussion took place with a man who shares responsibility for the destiny of a cosmetic house famed for its fragrances. Although Dr. Masters and I usually appear socially and professionally as a team, on this particular occasion I attended by myself without the accustomed backup we tend to provide for one another. During the conversation I found myself wishing for the “backup.”

The setting was large, social, and very gracious but there were the expected professional overtones. As our table talk progressed this man abruptly said, “I’m afraid that any scientific research, especially that which tries to identify natural human attractants, will simply open up a can of worms for the fragrance industry.” He made the statement so casually, so matter-of factly, that I was more surprised than angry. The Reproductive Biology Research Foundation, after all, is committed to various investigations which relate to the potential existence of human attractants. As you might imagine, as soon as I returned to St. Louis I shared this surprising comment with my partner and other members of our Foundation staff. Most of us felt that his opinion had to be given consideration because of his obvious importance in the fragrance field. Unfortunately the man’s further comments that evening provided us with little amplification of his opinion about basic research, so we were left to speculate.

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